Just over half an hour from Boston by car or by train, Concord is a good destination for a low-key, relaxing winter getaway.
Everyone tends to think of the historic sites of Lexington and Concord as places to go in the summer, but all of these places can be just as much fun in winter. Weekend or mid-week, there are plenty of places open, and good opportunities to do a little walking.
Settle into a cozy inn
A 10-minute stroll from the town center, the Hawthorne Inn is even closer to two of Concord’s main attractions – Orchard House and the Concord Museum, both open in the winter. The house is a big Victorian dating from the 1870s and sitting on land that once belonged to the Hawthornes, whose home, Wayside, sits across the street. The rooms are big and comfortable with full modern bathrooms. The guest sitting room was just across the hall from our room, a great place to sit and read or share experiences with other guests and the amiable hosts Gregory and Marilyn.
A walk through military history
Hawthorne Inn sits on Lexington Road, the road along which British troops marched on April 19, 1775, bound to Concord to destroy military supplies that the outlawed colonial legislature had hoarded here. On our walk into town, we passed many of the same buildings that those troops passed on their way to history.
An intellectual revolution too
But there is more to Concord than the American Revolution. The second revolution born here was an intellectual revolution led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott (and his daughters), and Nathaniel and Sofia (Peabody) Hawthorne, among others who explored nature and philosophy here and wrote books that transformed national thinking.
Directly across the street from the Hawthorne Inn is Wayside, the former home of Nathaniel and Sofia Hawthorne (unfortunately closed until 2014 for repair and restoration), where they lived for a short time in the 1850s and during the last years of his life from 1860 until 1864. The unusual tower was added by Hawthorne to house his study in 1861.
Just up the road is Orchard House, home of the philosopher and educator Bronson Alcott and his family, including author Louisa May Alcott. In this simple house, bought with the aid of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great minds of nineteenth century America met for “conversations” that led to led to the great books of that period. And here, in a sun-filled upstairs bedroom, is where Louisa wrote Little Women. Orchard House is open during the winter, and the tours are filled with interesting details about the Alcott’s’ lives and times. About 80% of furniture, art and artifacts are original to the family.
Concord's history brought alive
Further on, where Lexington Road intersects with Cambridge Turnpike the Concord Museum safeguards treasures of the town’s history in a purpose-built setting. A visit there sets the scene for other Concord sights, and it is open year-round. It is not just a collection of artifacts. These are well displayed, and interpreted with well-designed and engaging texts that draw visitors into the story and bring the exhibits to life.
Among its highlights are one of the lanterns used by Paul Revere at Old North Church, the bed, table and chair used by Thoreau in his cabin at Walden Pond, the actual fully intact study of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau’s snowshoes and a myriad of other evidences of the life of this town.
A cemetery and a bridge
There is so much to see here in winter. At Monument Square climb the hill to the cemetery where early settlers and Revolutionary War heroes lie buried, and look down on the town. Walk out Monument Street past beautiful colonial and nineteenth-century homes to Old North Bridge, as stunning a view in its winter crispness as in summer. The Old Manse, next door, witnessed the battle here when it was an Emerson family home, and was later home to the Hawthornes when they first married. It is a property of the Trustees of Reservations, and can be seen in winter by prior appointment (email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or call (978) 369-3909).
And streets for shopping
Downtown Concord is a fascinating place to browse. On Main Street and Walden Street are many shops and boutiques. Along with clothing boutiques, jewelry and antique shops is the Cheese Shop, on Walden Street, with an exceptional collection of cheeses, wines and deli treats. Grab a sandwich here or at the Main Street Market and Café.
Getting to Concord
By car take Storrow Drive (or Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side) to Route 2 west. At Concord, where Route 2 turns left at the bottom of a hill, continue straight ahead onto Cambridge Turnpike. At the intersection with Lexington Road turn right for the Hawthorne Inn or continue ahead (after a stop) for the town center. You can also get there by train from Porter Square, about $10.50. Cabs are available at the station and there is a bike rental nearby as well. Or walk into the town center, about a half mile.